I fancied going away for my birthday to Dubai and was looking at going on the Brilliance of the seas but saw a brilliant deal 80% off on a cruise only direct with Costa cruises website a week before departure. Booked a B5 balcony cabin on deck 6 mid ship. Had to phone up the call centre as there were technical problems with the website but the lady booked the cruise quickly and efficiently and let me pick out a cabin myself. I booked direct flights with Emirates and used my Marriott hotel points to stay at the Renaissance Deira hotel the night before embarkation. I would definitely recommend flying the day before if you can as there were guests that arrived at 7.00am on the morning of embarkation. It was a long day for them as they could not get into their cabins until 18.30.
The flight over with Emirates was excellent, I choose the 9.45 from Gatwick which landed at approx 20.35 in Dubai on Friday. Went to Duty free, grabbed a taxi and it was a short ride to the hotel. We just relaxed round the pool and had a mooch round Deira the day of embarkation as the check in time for the cruise was 15.00. The time you could go to your cabin was 18.30. The hotel extended our check out till 15.00 so we made our way to the ship then and checked in. Check in was efficient, there was nobody else checking in so we just walked straight on with no queues. We were carrying a large bottle of water on board as it was so hot. We got to the gangway and the security guard was very rude saying "I will tell you now, you are not allowed THAT on board"!. Saying it like a bottle of water was some banned illegal substance! Luckily for us it was the wrong gangway to use for getting on the ship so we went to the next gangway and walked on no problems. Little did that security guard know we had 4 bottle of duty free vodka and enough cans of soft drink in our suit cases to last the whole trip, ha ha. We just sat in the sun till 6.30pm and then went to our cabin and our suitcases arrived shortly after. I was very pleased with the cabin, it was larger than other balcony cabins I have been in with a good sized balcony and lovely beds. The cabin attendant was a bit surly, normally they knock and say hello, but this one just seemed to not be bothered, we would often return to our cabin around midday to 1pm and the cabin was still not made up despite us always using the make up room/do not disturb signs. Even with the do not disturb sign on the door, he would still knock and walk straight in the room! On departure we said thank you and goodbye to him and he just stared at us with a blank face like we were an inconvenience! Oh well!.
I did not really care for the buffet. The choices were very limited. Only some orange runny scrambled egg, really cheap awful sausages and bacon etc for breakfast. We tried the dining room for breakfast but it was just the same as the buffet and you still had to serve yourself which I just thought was pointless and there was even less room than in the buffet trying to get in between tables and people walking about. Food was very oily and salty. Some things were almost inedible and I am not a fussy eater at all. The evening meal in the restaurant was much nicer but again the waiters were a bit surly. We had to ask for menus after being seated for a while and there was no interaction as there have been on other cruise lines. I feel that as Costa has a compulsory service charge, the staff feel that they can give the minimum service. I just need the point out that the pizza and the watery ice cream from the machines were awful. I don't understand this as the Italians are renown for their amazing pizza and ice cream!
We did try the Club Luminosa on my birthday which was much nicer. There is a 20 Euro Surcharge each for this. The dessert was great, Ice cream made with liquid nitrogen in front of you!, and a birthday cake was brought out to me which was very nice. A bit strange though that as we were finishing our desserts/drinks a questionnaire and a pen was trust under our faces to rate the experience which sort of killed the ambiance. I don't know why they just couldn't of waited and delivered it to the cabin or something! The wine was very mediocre, 28 Euros for a bottle of Pinot Grigio.
The ports I liked best were Abu Dhabi and Dubai. There is not much to do in Fujairah and Bahrain. I thought it would have been a much better cruise if the ship had docked for 2 days in Abu Dhabi as there was so much to do and there was a lovely beach there. We used the Big bus tours in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and these were very good. We also used shuttle buses in Fujairah and Abu Dhabi. These were charged at 6 euros each by Costa but when we got to the buses nobody checked the tickets. By the next day in Abu Dhabi we found out the shuttle buses are apparently free and run by the local tourist boards! Terrible!.
The Arabian party was quite fun. Guests were dressed up in Arabian dress which you could pick up quite cheaply in Fujairah.
Something I need to point out is the decking. On other ships I have been on there has been the non slip rubber on the decks. This ship did not have this. By the mini golf course there is a small fountain that seemed to be spraying water every where else apart from on the golf course. There was water all over the deck and was very dangerous. My husband slipped over twice there, and I saw many other people slipping over too. I too slipped over by the buffet due to the slippery floors.A member of buffet staff just looked at me on the floor and walked past! I am 26 and my husband is 33 and we both fell over at different times, I would dread to think what would have happened to an elderly/disabled person. Costa really needs to address this before some bad accident occurs. I made it known to them but they did not seem too bothered and only put up a slippery surface notice instead of actually fixing the fountain and mopping up the pools of water on the deck.
We only went to one show. The first night was Chinese acrobatics which was very good. We heard off other people though that the shows were not too good so we did not bother going again.
The majority of guests on board are Italian and we only came across a handful of English speaking guests.
Disembarkation was great. You are requested to leave your luggage outside your door 5 hours before you disembark and you can used your cabin until 16.30. We got up, left our luggage outside the cabin and did a big bus tour around Dubai. There is a big bus tour shuttle which takes you to Bur Dubai to connect with the Big Bus. We got dropped back at the ship, grabbed our luggage and got a taxi to the crowne plaza festival city. We stayed for 1 night, (this hotel was fabulous) and flew home on the 15.45 to Heathrow no problems.
I feel that the cruise reflected the cheap price we paid. If we had paid the brochure price I would have felt very annoyed and ripped off. I guess I have been spoilt with Celebrity, princess etc. I would not cruise with Costa again. If I was cruising this area again I would definitely go with Royal Caribbean. Even Thomson is in a far higher league than Costa.